As a photographer, I look for new ways to document New York City life. To discover moments that may be overlooked as we hurry along with our days; to share the unexpected. Tonight was one of those occasions.
A year ago in March there was a news story that intrigued me. Every year, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey marches their elephants through the city streets when the circus comes to town. Since elephants don’t usually wander around Manhattan, I knew this was a spectacle that needed to be photographed. Planning a year out, I put this on my calendar to get the details. In February I contacted customer service. They told me “The elephant walk is scheduled for Monday, March 22 @ 11:59 PM”.
I tried to gather information from past events, but very little existed. The Mommy Poppins Blog had a possible explanation/origin of this walk: “the circus elephants can’t go up the Penn Station escalators, they need to get off the circus train a stop early in Queens and walk through the Mid-Town Tunnel, and straight across Manhattan to Madison Square Garden”.
So based on this information (or lack thereof) I envisioned a slow moving, large animal procession that would last at least 30 minutes. I prepared my two camera’s and waited on 34th Street near the tunnel exit.
It was a rainy night, so from time to time a downpour would break up the waiting/anticipation. There were a few people in the crowd that had contacts on the Queens side and were giving status reports of the elephant progression through the tunnel.
About 1:00am the Elephants Came to Town! There were 6 baby elephants with their handlers that moved like horses trotting down the lane. It took me a moment to realize that what I expected to happen and what actually happened were two very different things. The shot I was dreaming about, planning for days was not going to happen!
The elephants were followed by a group of small circus ponies and then some bicycle riding clowns. POOF! it was over. In less than 5 minutes the circus passed me by…
Aside from the long wait in the rain, it was a great experience. Next year I will know better, and be ready for those quick moving pachyderms.
Until next time!
adventure is life, live it! ®
March 17, 2011: Due to construction at MSG, the circus will not be in NYC this year.